On July 8th the long-awaited (really long awaited, as it’s now around six years since the new network was first proposed) new network gets rolled out on the isthmus. This will be the biggest rollout yet, and follows previous network changes in the south, the west and the east. The North Shore is scheduled for September 30th.
Here’s what Auckland transport are saying about the implementation:
Major improvements are on the way for bus services in Auckland’s central suburbs.
The New Network will roll out on Sunday 8 July, with many buses arriving more frequently every day of the week, with better access to popular destinations. A new Link service will also be added to the network, the Tāmaki Link, which will provide a frequent bus service between the eastern bays and Britomart.
There will also be a new bus service between St Lukes, Kingsland, Ponsonby and Wynyard Quarter, every 15-20 minutes, 7am to late in the evening, 7 days a week, connecting to nightlife, entertainment and dining hubs.
Auckland Transport’s Network Development Manager, Anthony Cross says, “We are creating more options for people to travel where they want, when they want. By introducing more frequent, seven-day a week services on major routes it makes the network much simpler to understand. Ultimately, the aim is for passengers to be able to turn up and go without a timetable on all main roads.
“We have planned the New Network to meet the needs of our growing city. It was created with customers’ feedback in mind from an extensive consultation in 2015. We’ve used that time to plan and prepare for a more connective network which has fewer routes for simplicity, but with greater frequency for usefulness. While it may take some time getting used to the changes, we are confident it provides public transport users with more freedom and more travel options.”
School buses operated by Auckland Transport in the central suburbs will get new route numbers and some will have route changes from Monday 23 July 2018, the start of Term 3.
AT will be supporting customers through the changes, with ambassadors at key locations who can help them plan their journey and find the bus they need to catch.
Brochures will be delivered to households and public information events will be held throughout June.
Hindi and Mandarin speaking ambassadors will also be available to assist at these events.
The New Network is a simpler, more connected bus network which launched in south Auckland in October 2016, the west in June 2017 and the east in December 2017. The North Shore, Hibiscus Coast and Warkworth are planned to follow later in the year.
There’s a lot more detail here, with the network map shown below:
Let’s start with the improvements.
- Two new frequent cross town services, one (the 66) from Pt Chevalier to Sylvia Park and the other (the 68) from New Lynn to Onehunga. This will provide much better options for people travelling across the isthmus, especially when combined with the great value cross-town fares now available with zone-based fares.
- A much simpler network generally than what we have now.
- A new frequent service between St Lukes and Wynyard Quarter via Ponsonby Road.
- Reliably frequent services on the main arterial bus corridors – no more 20 minute frequencies on Sundays for Mt Eden Road buses.
The biggest disappointment (outside the city centre, which we will get to shortly) is that the 650 bus, which travels between Pt Chevalier and Glen Innes along the Balmoral Road/Greenlane crosstown corridor, is not also a frequent service. This is potentially a really really useful route, linking together a string of centres cutting right through the heart of the isthmus, as well as serving some major locations like St Lukes shopping centre, Cornwall Park, Greenlane Hospital and the Showgrounds.
Looking at the map above, it’s obvious the reason why the 650 bus has not been made frequent is because the money that would have been used on this has instead been wasted on retaining the Outer Link. We have long taken issue with the Outer Link, because it provides an absolutely rubbish service. Too slow, too unreliable, stopping in the middle of nowhere in a vain attempt to stay on schedule, and did I say too slow? The Outer Link (the orange loop line in the map) duplicates much of the 650 route on its “southern part”, between Pt Chevalier and Epsom, meaning that there really would not be much lost at all by turning the Outer Link into a service that just ran along its northern part (perhaps from Mt Albert to the city via Pt Chevalier and Herne Bay) or linking it with the blue “Tamaki Link” to put a whole pile of major attractions on the same route (the Outer Link runs pretty close to the Zoo and MOTAT). This would be much more in line with the principles of the new network, which unfortunately seem to have been lost along the way in this case.
The other problem I have with the new central bus network is what happens in the city centre, where it seems that Auckland Transport want to yet again open up the messy debate that took place last year over the Victoria Street Linear Park. If you look closely at the routing map in the city centre, you’ll see that a bunch of buses are proposed to use Victoria Street:
You can see from the map above that Victoria Street will be full of buses, including those serving Remuera Road, New North Road, Sandringham Road, the Inner Link, the 18 bus (which serves Great North Road) and a few other peak only services. Once again it seems that Auckland Transport are doing their utmost to undermine efforts to make the Victoria Street Linear Park happen:
I am hopeful that Auckland Transport will quickly clarify that putting so many buses on Victoria Street is only a temporary arrangement while they build the long-promised Wellesley Street bus corridor. But given their disgraceful track record on the Linear Park it’s very hard to not be hugely cynical.
Overall, obviously the new network is a huge step forward for Auckland’s public transport system and the central area makes up the biggest part of this step. By in large the changes are good and will support a better quality public transport system. It’s just a shame to see the shine taken off by two big flaws.